On March 27 in Rome, Pope Francis addressed God and said, “It is not the time of your judgment, but of our judgment; a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not.” Pope Francis wants us to use this pandemic as an opportunity. What is essential in our lives and what is noise? In the noise of what our lives were, what have we been neglecting, who do we forget, what do we not appreciate or take for granted? As we ease back into “normal” life, will that become our lives again or have we learned something about what is essential?
This time also has us questioning ourselves, as we wait to hear if we are considered “essential.” Yes, it is a technical, economic term, but it is personal. When you are cut or furloughed, it is very personal. Feeling disposable is devastating. This challenge has been especially tough. Every day I start with a run, then a review of reflections, thoughts, homilies about faith. It is important as I need to be reminded that to God, I am essential, no matter what an employer says.
As I look around the world, the sports stars stopped playing…and we survived. The TV and movie stars stopped filming and having awards…and we survived. But every day the farmers got up to take care of animals and crops. Without them, we would not survive. So what is essential?
We look at our lives and relationships. That is grammatically correct. When I first typed that sentence, I wrote “we look at our life and our relationship.” I thought long and hard about it. I think I really do mean “our life and our relationship.” We are connected. We share a life. We are not individuals in a bubble, even those we have been encouraged to live that way through this pandemic. More than ever, we know we are members of a collective. We are isolating for the good of the collective, but we miss our collective – their faces, their voices. Computer screens just don’t cut it and text messages just don’t work. Technology has been essential but, as it always has been – even before the pandemic, it is hurtful as people are lost, forgotten, and left out.
I have spent time looking at loneliness and belonging. Dr. Josh Packard says, “There are lessons that we learned here from quarantine that will take us forward…But the key of it comes down to one simple fact, which is that belonging precedes believing. You get into trouble when they start to flip that script on its head.” People won’t believe until you make the effort to show them. It means being very intentional. It takes effort. It takes time. But it makes all difference. And it is essential.
We know we can pray in our homes. We know we can adapt and overcome any challenge to our faith with the help of our Lord. I have spent much time seeing and admiring what parishes are doing, especially the outreach by pastors (fish house confessions, “Around the Collar”). Our Church is not a building. We are the Church. It is not essential that the doors be open. But, in this I must be honest. This week, I was able to unlock the door of our church and welcome people to pray privately. We can do it alone, but we do it better together. Knowing that truth is essential.